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The Capitol Note: Senate committee hears medical marijuana

1) A key Senate committee Thursday morning will hear a proposal that would allow severely ill patients to access medical marijuana, marking the first movement in that chamber this session.

The unexpected spring forward for what was once a struggling piece of legislation that had stalled out in the House and not been considered at all in the Senate, came in response to Gov. Mark Dayton’s charge to lawmakers that they should take a vote on the measure instead of blaming their inaction on his opposition to it.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk obliged, according to the Rochester Post Bulletin.

“I have less anxiety now that he is going to veto it now that he’s actually asked us to move it,” Bakk said, noting that he expects the bill to make it to the Senate floor.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, has been attempting to amend the floundering House measure into different health and human services bills.

2) The Senate – long an obstacle – passed a measure on Wednesday bringing Minnesota’s minimum wage up to $9.50 an hour by 2016, paving the way for a House vote on Thursday.

With the Senate vote, one of DFLers key objectives for the session will now likely breeze through to Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk, the Pioneer Press reports. The wage measure – expected to buoy the earnings of more than 350,000 Minnesotans – has been a political bargaining chip among Democrats in the House and Senate.

“It’s a relief after a couple of years to get this resolved,” Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said after the vote. “I think it’s a great day like I said for the working poor of Minnesota. We’ve taken their bottom line into account and stood up for them.”

Earlier this session, Dayton criticized Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk for tying DFL priorities to the House approval of a new Senate office building. The House voted to approve a version of that office building last Friday, and on Monday the DFL legislative leaders announced a deal on the minimum wage.

The measure passed the Senate, which had dragged its feet on indexing the wage to inflation in some way, 35-21, with DFL Sens. Vicki Jensen (Owatonna), Lyle Koenen (Clara City) and Dan Sparks (Austin), voting with Republicans against the bill. Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, didn’t cast a vote. The bill also contains a provision that caps the increases to the wage and allows the executive branch to block an increase during poor economic conditions.

3) Gov. Mark Dayton signed an anti-bullying measure on the Capitol steps Wednesday afternoon, finishing up a process that stalled in the waning hours of last session, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

The measure would require schools to track cases of bullying, describe how they’ll combat it and implement more teacher training to prevent bullying. School districts are still looking at how to implement the provisions of the legislation, which opponents have called an unfunded mandate.

The bill passed the House with GOP opposition on Tuesday after a 12-hour floor debate. “It’s not only to provide the kind of academic excellence our young people are going to need, it’s to provide the kind of emotional, maturational experiences and guidance that they’re going to need to be successful in their lives, to be successful in this society, to be successful in this world,” Dayton said.


Gov. Mark Dayton‘s State of the State address had been scheduled for April 23, but the governor is now seeking an additional week to prepare for his annual speech to the Legislature. The Dayton administration sent a second official request letter to legislative leaders on Wednesday, which spokesman Linden Zakula attributed to Dayton’s wanting “more time to prepare his remarks.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden will hold a Capitol press conference at 10:00 a.m. this morning, and is scheduled to announce a policy idea to “combat wasteful spending.”

Lobbyist and former GOP House staffer Ian Marsh registered to lobby for the city of St. Paul, taking its current lobbying count to seven.

The 5th Congressional District Republican Party convention will be held at the VFW in Crystal on Saturday. The convention begins at 10:00 a.m., and registration begins at 9:30; cost is $20 to participate. More information here.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced a pair of staff moves yesterday, the Pioneer Press reports. Coleman brought on St. Paul city attorney Sara Grewing to serve as interim deputy mayor, where she will fill-in for the departing Paul Williams, and hired Tonya Tennessen as communications director. Tenneseen was most recently at the Weber Shandwick public relations firm, and prior to that had worked as communications lead for the DFL Party, as well as Gov. Mark Dayton during his tenure in the U.S. Senate.

The St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce registered four new lobbyists to advocate for its cause, including a trio from the Messerli & Kramer firm, as well as Michael Belaen. The additions mean that organization now has seven lobbyists on record.

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